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What makes a good showcase story?

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Odds are, you’re marketing something more complicated than a tooth paste. How do you make businesses see benefits of your enterprise project management software? How do you inspire people to dream about more sustainable heating systems? Listing features is great, but you need that initial spark of interest. Epic showcase stories can help you light that fire.

Writing an inspirational, engaging showcase story is not the same as listing testimonials from customers.
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“XY is the best ever, they increased our sales by 80%”

That’s just isn’t going to cut it anymore, especially if you’re after the highly sceptical and elusive B2B customer.

Find the Hero

Fist, you need to find the right hero. Of course, having large, well known clients is good for you and a sign that you’re B2B company is financially stable. But in my opinion, it’s better to choose an “underdog” for your story. Maybe there are a lot of people emotionally invested in the fight between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, for example, but will they identify with them? Will they root for them to get the help they deserve?

Since the dawn of civilisation as we now it, stories have been traded that follow a certain pattern. And no, it’s not “hero had a great life and then somebody came along who helped him achieve even better and then everybody lived happily ever after”. There needs to be a journey of overcoming adversity.

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This is a model based on Joseph Campbell’s concept of monomyth, a basic pattern that he finds in a large number of narratives from around the world. It’s used by Hollywood studies, think for example about the plot of The Lion King or Star Wars.

Find the challenge

For example, this story is about a really small studio that was entering a crowded genre with their first game. However, the challenges can also be personal, related to real life tragedies. This video about a game developer who is almost totally paralysed brought a lot of people to think (including me): what’s my excuse for not following up on my plans and dreams? This content leaves the audience thinking, how did they make amazing games anyway?

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So if you’re interviewing customers for a showcase story, first ask them what their challenges are. They will naturally fall into the storytelling pattern mentioned above. Then you can lead them to tell you about your role in their story.

Be the helper

The advantage of using this role, is that it allows the audience to identify with the hero. At the same time, don’t be an all knowing Yoda kind of helper. A story that’s real and engaging has ups and downs, so include whatever the customers told you about issues they had using your product and how you reacted.

The point of a showcase story is to inspire, awe, entertain and teach. Funnily enough, even  the aforementioned Coca Cola gets it now and completely centered its corporate website around stories. For every story, they check if it passes the “Why Should I Care” test. Stories that  emotionally resonate with the audience and provide useful information do.

Big companies have huge resources for experimenting with content and digital marketing, but the good news is that well written stories aren’t expensive. You pretty much just need somebody to interview people and write with a journalistic mindset. These people are currently called “brand journalists”, but you might just as well find somebody on your sales team with a story to tell. If your product’s really great, maybe you have a few  emails from customers in your inbox that just need a bit of editing to become great articles for your website.

Of course, you’re always welcome to get in touch with me. I’m curious to hear your story!



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